Sam’s historical recipe corner: Custard tart

The fifth episode of The Great British Bake Off airs on BBC One tonight. Here, we take a step back in time and recreate some historical recipes for you to try at home


In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates custard tart – a rich dessert that has graced royal tables through the ages.


Custard tarts really are the food of and queens. They were served at Henry IV’s coronation in 1399 and more recently at Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday in 2006. In medieval times the tarts (also known as doucetes and darioles) could include pork too – dinner and pudding in one! Custard recipes go back to Roman times, but I used Marcus Wareing’s Queen’s birthday banquet version.


For the pastry:

• 225g flour + pinch of salt

• Zest of one lemon

• 150g butter

• 75g caster sugar

• 1 egg and 1 egg yolk


For the filling:

• 9 egg yolks

• 75g caster sugar

• 500ml whipping cream

• 2 nutmegs



Preheat oven to 170°C/gas mark 3. Add salt, lemon zest and butter to the flour and mix between fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add sugar, then the beaten egg and extra yolk, and form into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm, chill in a fridge for 1-2 hours, then roll out on a floured surface to 2mm thick. 

Use to line an 18cm flan ring, placed on a baking tray, and cover with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake for 10 mins or until pastry starts to go golden brown. Remove, then cool. Reduce oven to 130°C/gas mark 1.

Bring the cream to the boil. In a separate bowl whisk egg yolks with sugar and mix in the cream. Fill the pastry case to the brim and grate nutmeg on top. Bake for 30–40 mins or until set. Allow to cool.


My verdict

Delicious but extremely rich. Treat yourself to a moderate slice (rather than the robust slices I ate). You’ll find that it still works well if you reduce the sugar content.

Difficulty: 3/10

Time: 120 minutes

Recipe courtesy of Great British Chefs

For a medieval version of the same recipe see Cook’s Info.


This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine.